Three Professors Honored for Academic Excellence

May 11, 2020

Sheri Boyle, Kimberly Vanderlaan and Louise Nicholson earn Presidential Merit Awards for their outstanding work at Cal U.

  • - Dr. Kimberly Vanderlaan, Presidential Merit Award for scholarship.

  • - Dr. Louise Nicholson, Presidential Merit Award for teaching.

  • - Dr. Sheri Boyle, Presidential Merit Award for service.

Three California University of Pennsylvania faculty members who contribute to student success have received Presidential Distinguished Merit Awards for excellence in service, teaching and scholarship.

Dr. Sheri Boyle, Dr. Louise Nicholson, and Dr. Kimberly Vanderlaan will each receive a medallion to be worn over her academic regalia, plus a scholarship to be awarded to a student in each recipient’s discipline.

Boyle, associate professor, chair of the Department of Social Work and master of social work program director, was honored for excellence in service.

Her strong and consistent service to the University includes her work on the University Wide Promotion Committee, the Middle States Accreditation Writing Committee and the President’s Commission for the Status of Women. She also organizes a monthly symposium on issues such as poverty, addiction and cultural diversity,

At the community level, she works with Open Your Heart to a Senior, and the Blackburn Center, both in Greensburg, Pa.

She is a leader in social work education as a site visitor for the Council on Social Work Accreditation, the accrediting body for social work education.

Part of her commitment to providing new training or opportunities for Cal U students includes two successful applications for Health Resources & Services grants.

The Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program grant prepares Cal U students to work in rural and medically underserved communities with a focus on mental and behavioral health.

The HRSA Opioid Workforce Expansion grant prepares students for careers in fields related to drug addiction policy, prevention and recovery.

Both grants offer graduate students $10,000 stipends.

Nicholson, an associate professor and chair in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, was honored for excellence in teaching.

An expert in genetics, she creates all the content for the course, with ongoing revisions to incorporate recent discoveries and new methods, such as the lab on genome-wide association studies, which she introduced last semester.

She developed and taught an upper-level specialty biology course, along with two special topics courses for the Honors Program. She also developed two upper-level courses for the new Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology.

Nicholson has supervised over 60 undergraduate research students, 30 of whom have presented their work at regional and national conferences, and 15 of whom have secured grants to support their work.

As part of the Mobile Enhanced Inquiry-Based Learning grant, she created a series of short tutorials that students accessed on smart phone or iPads to assess their impact on student confidence and performance in science courses.

Vanderlaan, an associate professor in the Department of English, was honored for excellence in academic scholarship. Her area of expertise is late 19th and 20th century American literature with a passion for composition.

Vanderlaan has served for the past two years as co-editor of Beyond Nebraska: Willa Cather’s Pittsburgh and Cather Studies Volume 13, and she is a reviewer of Willa Cather and the Arts (ed. Guy Reynolds) for American Literary Realism. 

Before the 2017 International Cather Seminar in Pittsburgh, Vanderlaan was interviewed for her insight on Willa Cather by WQED’s Jim Cunningham. 

Vanderlaan also serves on a national committee of three to select participants for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program in the Netherlands. The ETA fellowship is part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which facilitates cultural exchange through direct interactions in the classroom and also through encouraging extracurricular activities while serving as English instructors.  

She received a grant to bring acclaimed novelist and short story writer T.C. Boyle to Cal U in 2018.